Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sheep Go Boom

Wired has an excellent article on one of the great modern board games, Settlers of Catan, which deserves every accolade that has be placed upon it. A surprisingly easy game to teach and play, it has a perfect mix of random chance, personal interaction, and strategy.

One thing that is missing in the article is how these more expensive German games first made their initial inroads in America. And that involves another game Magic: The Gathering. Magic was the phenomena before the European Board Game phenomena. The card game was incredibly popular and incredibly collectible, such that early series were worth huge amounts in the aftermarket, both as speculation and in the game (the game has become more balanced over the years, but lacks the excitement of having a rare card in your deck of those early years). A lot of my friends got into Magic, played the heck out of it, then sold their cards are amazing prices to others.

So they had money, they had an interest in games, and suddenly the world of European Board Games, which had poked along for many years (usually with translated rule sets in the box (if you were lucky)) opened its doors to them. AND the European games arrived with its own killer app, Settlers of Catan. And that's how I first learned to play - from early adapters who were getting out of CCGs.

I'd like to say I still have my original set, but I ended up spreading this meme myself in those early years. I would teach someone to play, they would love it, and I would give them the game we were playing (yeah, I'm always recruiting future gamers). It was popular among my family, as my then-young-nieces quickly understood the game and became mavens at it. The heading of this article is a result of one of those games - I don't know how we ended up talking about sheep (probably we had a surplus of them) and one of them coined the phrase "Sheep go boom". Still a family punchline.

The game itself remains a favorite for gaming days and gaming nights with friends. Inevitably, there is a new player. Inevitably, they end up winning or coming darn close in the game. Inevitably, we find someone who is very interested in the game. And since it it easier to get on this side of the pond, I don't have to give away copies anymore.

More later,